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National Air Traffic Service (Nats) responded in the best possible way to last week's Computer Weekly which asked: "Seven more years of this?" in...



National Air Traffic Service (Nats) responded in the best possible way to last week's Computer Weekly which asked: "Seven more years of this?" in the wake of two weekends of air traffic chaos.

The problem, we reported, lay with faults in Nats Flight Data Processing System, the 20-year-old system that will be central to the New En Route Centre at Swanwick.

Our comment praised Nats staff and skills but called for much more openness from an organisation that is largely unaccountable to the public or its customers, the airlines.

Nats responded by inviting Computer Weekly to a full briefing with Frank Agnew, its IT director, who offered a clear, comprehensive explanation of what had gone wrong and why.

Agnew insisted that the highly publicised failures were one-offs that are very unlikely to be repeated. We hope he is right.

However we believe our questions remain legitimate.

Nats must continue to improve the performance of a 20-year-old system for another five to seven years, while managing the change-over to Swanwick.

That will be a considerable challenge.

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